About two-thirds of people with dementia in the United States are women, and researchers are discovering it’s not just because they live longer. Reproductive history also plays a role. Scientists are focusing on the role of estrogen as a potential protective factor against Alzheimer’s disease. Several who are involved in this research explain.
Dr. Rachel Whitmer, Professor of Epidemiology, University of California-Davis
Dr. Heather Snyder, Senior Director, Medical and Scientific Operations, Alzheimer’s Association
Dr. Pauline Maki, Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology, University of Illinois-Chicago
If dementia is recognized early, medication and coping strategies are very beneficial. However, dementia is often undiagnosed and untreated until it is far along. A newly developed online test can help assess if someone has mild cognitive impairment, a precursor to dementia.
Dr. Douglas Scharre, Director, Division of Cognitive Neurology, Ohio State University
Are you worried about developing dementia? Well, lowering your blood pressure can cut the risk of memory decline. A SPRINT MIND study presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference shows aggressively lowering blood pressure significantly reduces the risk of mild cognitive impairment and dementia among hypertension patients. Results also show significant cardiovascular benefits in people whose systolic blood pleasure was lowered aggressively to below 120. Experts suggest seeing your doctor and knowing your numbers.
Osteoporosis is responsible for as many as half of all fractures in women and one in four in men over the age of 50…but a new test could give people decades of warning. A study in the journal PLOS ONE describes a new genetic screening test that may predict a person’s future risk of osteoporosis and bone fracture. That would allow people to take vitamin D, calcium and participate in weight-bearing exercise to stave off later ill effects.
And finally…friendship might be priceless…but is it timeless? A new study in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships shows it takes more than 200 hours of togetherness before someone can be considered a close friend. But experts say it’s worth it. They say time and activity shared are strategic investments toward sustaining our belongingness needs.
Colorectal cancer rates have increased among people under the age of 50 and that’s why the American Cancer Society is now recommending adults undergo screening starting at age 45, rather than 50. The rate of colorectal cancer among people younger than 50 has risen 51 percent since 1994 yet doctors are struggling to pinpoint the reason. Colorectal cancer is the fourth-most-common cancer among adults, and about 50,000 americans are expected to die of the disease in 2018.
For years, public health experts have been encouraging women to take folic acid supplements to prevent birth defects but a study in the American Journal of Public Health shows many women still don’t take them. The study shows fewer than five percent of low-income urban mothers take daily folic acid supplements before getting pregnant. Previous studies prove that use of these prenatal vitamins can prevent 50 to 70 percent of neural tube defects in newborns. Experts suggest all women of reproductive age take folic acid since many pregnancies are unintended.
The belief that exercise can slow cognitive decline in older people with dementia has gained popularity. Yet new research shows that’s not true. A study in the journal BMJ says moderate to high intensity exercise can improve physical fitness but experts say it does not improve cognitive impairment, daily activities, behavior, or health-related quality of life.
And finally, everyone knows soda isn’t good for you. But it may be even worse than you think. A study in the journal Obesity Reviews shows that “a calorie isn’t just a calorie” but that some are worse than others, and soda may be one of the worst. Even if soda doesn’t make you gain weight, it can markedly increase the risk of other health-related issues.
One of the most dangerous professions of all is “firefighter.” But the job carries more than just the risk involved in answering a call. Nearly half of all on-duty deaths are a result of heart attacks, often after the call is over. Now a study in the journal Circulation may show why. Researchers say that extreme heat combined with physical exertion dehydrate the body, divert blood to the skin, lower blood pressure and increase blood clotting in the body. Firefighters involved in the study rescued a simulated victim during exposure to temperatures as high as 750 degrees.
People are supposed to get eight hours of sleep per night if they can but more than nine hours a night could be an early sign of dementia. A study in the journal Neurology finds that elderly people who consistently sleep more than nine hours a night have twice the risk of dementia over the next 10 years as people who sleep less. The risk climbs to six times normal in long sleepers without a high school degree.
A finally, if you want people to avoid junk food in vending machines, make them wait. In a study presented to the Society of Behavioral Medicine, researchers rigged vending machines with a 25-second delay before dispensing junk food, and a notice of the delay on the machine’s LED screen. Purchasers had a chance to buy something else to avoid the delay, and many did. Healthy snack purchases increased by as much as five percent.